I worry for Bernard Tomic.
Yeah, I know, he’s been acting like a jerk, at the Aussie Open qualifying, and now on some TV ‘reality’ show, and plenty of times before those two things. I know he talks about all his millions, like a tosser. I get it.
But I’d love us all to just put down our pitchforks for a moment, our sneers and liberal use of the word ‘quitter’.
Because I only see a man in trouble.
Maybe it’s because I have sons around the same age. The Dad in me just can’t help but want to check he’s going to be ok.
Maybe it’s Tomic’s eyes; those dark bottomless pools of unhappiness and painfully fake cocky defiance.
Maybe it’s because Tomic so clearly struggles with social skills and human engagement after following the established path to tennis stardom where a kid hits a million balls for hours every day from the age of about eight, all while being cajoled by domineering parents and yet also told they are the greatest person on the planet because they have a better forehand than other kids their age, usually by agents and other people with dollar signs in their eyes.
And now he wandered into the dangerous cave of predators that is a TV ‘reality’ show, where the options are:
- He actually went in with the intention of trying his hardest, and unravelled almost immediately,
- He stumbled in there without thinking it through, and unravelled almost immediately,
- Channel 10 coaxed him in there, with a fair idea he’d unravel almost immediately, generating headlines, or
- The worst option: Channel 10 and he had an agreement that he’d only be in there a couple of days, staging the whole thing and generating huge publicity for the start of the show.
Either way, it’s a fucked up situation and father-me just yearns for Tomic to have somebody wise and loving in his corner, to guide him into counselling or somewhere he can get genuine help. His actual dad is probably not the guy to do that but surely there are other senior men and women somewhere in his life, who don’t only see him as a potential meal ticket?
Strangely, the host of ‘I’m a celebrity’, Chris Brown seems to have come closest. I’ve met Brown and he seems like a pretty level-headed guy for a TV star and his approach to Tomic, as the 25-year-old unexpectedly walked out on the show, was perfect.
‘The way I see it and correct me if I’m wrong, for me this goes beyond you as a tennis player, a celebrity,’ Brown said. ‘When I’ve been watching you in the camp, you’re not a happy guy. I don’t care about anything else, about your tennis or your tennis career, I want you in a year’s time to be happy. Is that a priority of yours, as a person, just to be happy?’
Tomic admitted he was depressed and said he planned to dive straight back into tennis, which was also worrying. Clearly, he needs to step away from all spotlights, fame, media and public expectations, to do some private work on who he is and what he wants to be. If he actually thinks he is depressed, he should get an official diagnosis on that and start the hard work to emerge.
Getting straight back to tennis is probably not a smart move. Australia’s Davis Cup captain Lleyton Hewitt had already hinted earlier in the day that Tomic may never play for Australia again, because of his recent actions, including choosing a reality show appearance over Davis Cup duty. On the one hand, I get it: as a coach, you would be shaking your head and the whole tennis world must be sick of wondering why Tomic can’t get his act together. But again, Lleyton has had plenty of issues of his own, especially in his twenties. Take a moment; look beyond this week’s opponent and consider the clearly troubled man off-court.
Some Australians have felt as I do and want support for Tomic, not derision. Channel Ten copped it from viewers after mocking Tomic as a ‘quitter’ in a tweet after he left the show.
‘If you were really listening, you would of (sic) heard he was crying out for help but as usual you’re only interested in the ratings & $$$! Very disappointing channel 10,’ went one response among the many.
Ten deleted the tweet but host Julia Morris – a person who has publically battled some issues herself over the years – didn’t show much empathy as the confused Tomic staggered off to whatever happens next in his life.
It’s a shame. As Australians, we seem to have lost empathy as a super power, if we ever had it. I’d like to think some of us – the GiantsAmongMen demographic at least – could step away from the frothy bright lights of the tennis circus and ‘reality TV’ bullshit world and show leadership in empathy and support for those who are struggling. Even if they are outwardly obnoxious multi-millionaire brats.
It wouldn’t be so hard to show Tomic some support. Yes, it’s sad and frustrating to see him potentially throw away his considerable tennis talent but not everybody can be Roger Federer, ever smiling while never somehow tiring of hitting tennis balls for decades at a time.
It doesn’t really matter if Tomic walks away from tennis or takes some deep breaths and has another crack. Chris Brown was right: it only matters that he finds a way to be happy.
Because right now, he’s clearly got issues and needs support, not trolls.